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Seven Tips for Time Management in a Handmade Business

One of the problems that growing businesses often have, especially ones with a single person in them, is getting it all done.

Whether your business has one person or 500 people, the product needs to get made, the accounting needs to be done, and marketing campaigns need to be put together and released, new products need to be designed, and customer service issues need to be addressed. It’s a lot to deal with.

There are a couple of concepts I want to bring up before we get to ways to get all this done:

  • Time management is ultimately “priority management.” You decide what is the most important. It’s easy to think that everything is important… and it is. But some things are more important than others. Those items need to get done (or at least planned) first.
  • Time is kind of like money. You only have so much of it and you have to decide how much you spend on each item in your budget. If you spend too much going out to dinner then you don’t have enough to pay your electric bill. Unlike money, though, you can’t get more time (though hiring an employee is close to it!).

Believe me…. I have a day job, run an Etsy shop, do some consulting on the side, and still manage to have time to ride my bike and play an occasional video game. It can be done.

With that in mind, let’s dig into a few ways to help you get more done.

1) Figure out when you work best.

Look at your week as it is now. You probably already have a routine of some kind. Most people do their best creative thinking earlier in the day. Others find they struggle with math later in the day. Whatever your specific patterns are, write them down.

2) Know your workload

At any given moment, you should know:

  • How many open orders you have
  • How much material you need to fill those orders
  • How much material you have on-hand
  • How long it will take you (in hours) to make and package all of those orders
  • When each order needs to ship by

If not, that’s the first thing for you to figure out and start keeping track of. It might take a week or two to record the time it takes to make

This information lets you plan how much time you need to fill orders each week and keeps you constantly stocked up on supplies so you don’t miss deadlines due to being out of something you needed.

3) Work in batches

A great way to get more done is to do similar tasks together.

You gather up all the materials, supplies, tools, and information you need and then you do all of them at once. It keeps your mind focused on the task, so you can stay mentally focused.

It also greatly reduces “switchover” time”, which is the time you lose putting away everything you needed for one task and getting out everything you need for the next task.

4) Schedule your time

It’s often said that tasks grow to fill the time allotted. The best way to get more done is to schedule more.

If you give yourself 60 minutes every day to answer all your customer service questions, you will get them all done. If you give yourself 30 minutes, you will get them all done and not look at Facebook 10 times while you’re doing it. If you give yourself 20 minutes, you will force yourself to be more efficient, using pre-written responses as much as possible and not deliberating over the perfect way to answer the same question each time.

If you allow 2 hours to work on orders, you will MOVE during those two hours… because there’s something else you need to do afterwards.

It doesn’t matter what method you use to schedule your time. There’s a calendar app on your phone. You can print a weekly calendar to hang on your wall. You can buy a desk calendar to schedule a month at a time. There are even apps that help keep you on track (I like Trello). It’s up to you.

At the start of each week (Sunday night or Monday morning) plan out your week. You’ll struggle at first. As things come up, add them to the schedule and then you’ll know for next week.

I would ever recommend scheduling your learning time too. Maybe it’s just 15 minutes over coffee to read the day’s business and industry news… but you need to keep up somehow.

At the end of each week, evaluate your schedule. Were you able to get what you needed to done? If so, is there anywhere you could trim something to be just a little more efficient?

If not, where do you think you went wrong in planning? Did you let yourself get distracted? Or did you not leave enough time?

After 4 to 6 weeks, you should find the task of scheduling much easier.

It’s like filling out your household budget. You will struggle to meet all the demands sometimes, but once you get the numbers figured out, you can make it work month after month.

5) Schedule your priorities first

The things that absolutely must get done need to be on the calendar first.

These are the things your business needs to survive. Marketing, new product development, and fulfilling orders are at the top of the list. They need to be on your calendar every single week. It might only be an hour, but it needs to be there.

Once the absolute must-do items are on the calendar, then fill in the remaining time with other tasks.

Again, like your budget, you pay your mortgage and buy groceries first. You need those things to survive so they get first-dibs.

6) Standardize the tasks that are done on a regular basis

There are going to be recurring tasks that are on your schedule every week or one a month. Scheduling, doing inventory, placing supply orders, planning your social media posts, filing taxes… the list goes on and on.

If at all possible, do them the same time every week. That way, you end up with a routine that you can settle into. Scheduling on Monday morning. Doing inventory and placing supply orders every Saturday.  Planning your social media calendar on the last day of the month. Updating your P&L statement on the first day of the month.

Most of these tasks are not that exciting… and you might find you can do them less often. Maybe you were doing inventory and updating your accounting records every week, but could actually do them every other week on alternating Fridays.

If they are on the schedule, you won’t let them slide. You just won’t spend as much time on them.

7) Delegate what you can

There are some things that absolutely need to be done by the founder of the company… but not many (most of them involve signing legal documents).

Almost every single thing you do could be taught to someone else… and it’s the ultimate way to get more done.

Yes, there is a time cost to teaching others and coordinating their work (especially in the beginning, when they are learning how to work for you and you are learning how to manage well), but it is well worth it in the long run.


 

Hopefully you had enough time to read this and find these to be helpful in getting more done in the same amount of time 🙂

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